DRM on Smart TV

06. August 2013

Nowadays any VoD service can't exist without adaptive streaming and DRM. Find out what is the situation like regarding DRM on Smart TVs in our thorough article.

What is DRM in the first place?

DRM is a video protection with an encryption of combination asymmetrical and symmetrical characters and the adaptive streaming ensures uninterrupted video streaming even under lowered network transmission, though with lower image quality.

The general requirements

Film studios and distributors' requirements are in this case clear – without DRM protection it's not possible to get film titles in OTT service (virtual or rental) usage. The reason is that streaming without an encryption would be enough one paid account for downloading all content and unauthorized placing on one of the upload servers for illegal broadcasting.

In the world of OTT while selecting is necessary to think of all platforms on which should be the application available – besides Smart TVs, this includes especially mobile phones, tablets, web and game consoles. The client is usually looking for DRM which will run on most of the platforms. Important is not only accessing the content to the widest group of customers but also high initial investment up to tens of thousands dollars, licenses payments, training, server service and videos encoding and encrypting in more formats.

The hidden problem is often in details – the producer declares DRM support on more platforms, but in reality it doesn't always mean integrated support on the operating system level, and thus the necessity of dealing with other suppliers on the implementation of DRM and software video players for the right system. Nowadays, it is possible to pay for DRM like a service which partially reduces initial costs and to stay without own server installation.

In the world of OTT, the decision about usage of particular DRM dramatically differs from discussions IPTV operators. Unlike the closed IPTV set-top box systems which operator distributes uniformly to all customers is the support of a wide spectrum of user devices problematic. The choice of DRM always ends with the option between Widevine from Google and PlayReady from Microsoft. In the ideal case, the customer buys both, e.g. PlayReady for web and operators systems and Widevine for mobile devices and TV. Both DRM systems are available on iOS and Android. Widevine has native support on Android from version 4.x. On GoogleTV is available native support of both systems with the latest update (03/2012). (That's not necessarily the truth anymore – here you can find our up-to-date comparison of DRM and all important platforms).

PlayReady is available thanks to Device Porting Kit for both mobile systems but native support has also except GoogleTV only on tablets with Windows 8 and on mobiles Windows Phone 8. Type of used DRM determinate also the type of video stream – Widevine is bounded with own format of adaptive streaming unlike PlayReady offers some flexibility and can work with WMV (historically) and with adaptive SmoothStreaming (from Microsoft) and latest on some new platforms even with MPEG-DASH (ISO standard), exceptionally with HLS (from Apple, IETF draft).

Smart TVs

Regarding Smart TVs, we must rely on integrated DRM support from vendors – which is simply there or not. To install DRM support for example via a plug-in on TV is not additionally possible. Therefore, there are currently just two options on TVs – either using Widevine or PlayReady. Other DRM can be available locally for some regions, selected TV models, series etc. For further systems like Marlin or for the improvement of CENC is on the most TVs too early. Besides these both DRM TVs have usually built-in support of AES in HLS but not for the VoD distribution – it is not DRM and the distribution of movies (perhaps except some Bollywood titles) is practically impossible.

DRM support on TVs is often tied to a specific version of firmware. The problem is that the distribution of firmware depends on regions (Europa, Asia, America…), model of TV series and hardware. For instance, lower series (X10+) Samsung SmartTVs 2012 use processor MStar X10 900Mhz while higher series (Echo-P) have dual-core ARMy (Cortex-A9), it means relatively powerful processor ARMv7 generation and its variants use tablets and phones). The result is that different systems and televisions need different firmware versions and patches, which get at different times. In practice, we met primarily with the fact that in Latin America and the Arab countries (MENA) TVs have different firmware than in the EU and DRM for the region was not available at all or with a time interval.


Generally, we can say that the developer's experience with adaptive streaming and DRM on Smart TV is quite good with the Widevine system. In several projects, we have verified that Widevine DRM works without problems on Samsung SmartTV, LG NetCast, and Philips NetTV. Samsung and LG producers support also older television from 2011, while support for Philips TVs is from the version 4.0 NetTV. In practice, we found a problem using DRM for example on new Samsung SmartTV 2013, when, under certain circumstances, there is a behavior that reminds DDoS attack or television freezes in case of connectivity loss during the streaming. But these are the minor cases which are the result of new firmware and about which we actively communicate with the producers. Gradually, the new firmware resolved these issues.

PlayReady and SmartTV Alliance

PlayReady and SmoothStreaming support all models of Samsung SmartTV 2012 and later. Samsung SmartTV 2012 requires installing the latest firmware – version 1034.1 on the lower series of television (5xxx, 6xxx) and from the version 2008.2 on the high-end models (series 7xxx, 8xxx, 9xxx) everything works without problems. LG NetCast platform also supports PlayReady and recently joined the Smart TV Philips NetTV. The need to support PlayReady on NetTV is dictated by the membership of TPVision Company in SmartTV Alliance, which requires mandatory implementation of PlayReady. Therefore we expect that it will be at a reasonable level. Support of Widevine is in the case of SmartTV Alliance optional as it is shown in the table below:

PlayReady and SmartTV Alliance support overview

Sony BRAVIA and Panasonic SmartViera

An interesting situation is with the TV Sony BRAVIA that supports PlayReady, but they lack the support of Widevine. It is necessary to draw an attention to the fact that applications developed for Sony TV can be placed in two application stores. DRM is not available for applications uploaded on Opera TV Store, but only for those which are pre-approved by Sony and where exists a contract between Sony and the operator of OTT services about the commercial aspects of its operations. Such applications are then placed directly on the main menu of television (as shown in the attached picture) and the user doesn't have to go through the Opera TV Store.

Sony Entertainment Network

Televisions from Panasonic currently offer no DRM protection, but in discussions with company representatives (07/2013), the support of PlayReasy should appear soon. In the past, Panasonic Smart TV Viera supported WMDRM.


In the case of HbbTV technology, DRM support depends on the vendor and on the specific model, series and TV firmware or STB, and also on the country in which is television sold. For example in France, it is obligatory to support Marlin or PlayReady. However, other countries may have different requirements. It comes from the national character of HbbTV services provided by local television stations. For the vast majority of contemporary home televisions, we can't expect DRM support. On this year’s models supporting the HbbTV standard 1.5 is available Marlin DRM with MPEG-DASH or PlayReady.

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